Scientists have studied the demographic transition and urbanisation to better understand the future of tiger conservation in Asia.
The analysis of human population scenarios and its connection to tiger conservation is the first of its kind and was led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
How population change affects tigers
Before the twentieth century, it is estimated that there were more than 100,000 tigers living in the wild. Today the number is between 3000-4000. Over the last 150 years, the human population of Asia has grown from 790 million to over 4 billion, with negative consequences for tigers and other wildlife.
Lead author Eric Sanderson, a Senior Conservation Ecologist with WCS, said: “Urbanisation and the subsequent human demographic transition is arguably the most important historical trend shaping the future of conservation. How that transition plays out is not pre-determined. Rather it depends on the policy decisions that governments, and the societies they represent, take with respect to fundamental matters such as urban governance, education, economic reform, and the movement of people and trade goods. These decisions matter for us and tigers too.”
Co-author and WCS Senior Vice President of Field Conservation Joe Walston, added: “If we want a world with tigers, forests, and wildness to persist beyond the 21st century, conservation needs to join forces with groups working to alleviate poverty, enhance education for girls, reduce meat consumption, and build sustainable cities.”
Recommendations for tiger conservation
Different population scenarios depend on differing courses of demographic transition. The long-term scenarios associated with the lowest human populations are also associated with the greatest levels of urbanisation and education. However, urban consumption presents a threat to tigers. The authors suggest that conservation authorities must engage with people who live in cities to save tigers. They also recommend that conservation authorities continue to support site-level protection efforts around tiger source sites.